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I am so excited for the new film version of Anna Karenina. I love Russian novels and books about Russia…that vast snowy landscape, the incredible suffering and tenacity of the Russian people, the political tumult, the amazing art and culture. It all makes for great literature.

If you haven’t yet read Anna Karenina, treat yourself. It’s long, yes, but so worth it. Full of philosophy, drama, longing and heartache…it’s really a perfect read for this time of year. Long nights require long novels.

If you can’t wrap your mind around such a big book, read Tolstoy’s short story, Three Questions. Also, Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak after which you can curl up with the Omar Sharif/Julie Christie movie version (sigh).

If you prefer contemporary novels, try two great novels about the siege of Leningrad. The City of Thieves by David Banioff is about a mismatched pair of men on a quest for fresh eggs in a city where there is no food to be had. It’s tragic and funny and wonderful.

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean also takes place during the siege, alternating with a contemporary story about an elderly woman losing her memory. The Hermitage Art Museum has a leading role in this story. Beautifully written. This one will haunt you long after you’ve finished it.

If the story of the last Romanov Tsar and his family who were shot during the Russian Revolution interests you, read The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander. No one witnessd the execution of the Romanov family in real life. This novel is narrated by a servant who is a witness not only to the execution but to the last days of the royal family. This is vividly written and fascinating. Afterwards, you could watch Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia and speculate about whether the myth of the surviving princess is true. (sigh again)

If you are a fan of biography, Robert K. Massie’s biography of Catherine the Great has just come out in a new edition and it’s great. You can just picture yourself in the Winter Palace and the political intrigue makes this read like a novel. Another good one for the long dark nights ahead.

It’s almost enough to make you hope summer never gets here.

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